On May 12, after a 9 a.m. meeting that lasted approximately 20 minutes, Republican lawmakers voted to strip Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) of her position as chair of the House Republican Conference. The vote, which was held behind closed doors, represents a significant victory for the pro-Trump, populist wing of the GOP and a blow to those who, like Cheney, oppose the former president and who – many would argue – want to turn the party back to the days of riding the Washington, D.C. gravy train.
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney had already survived an earlier attempt to oust her, following her vote to impeach Mr. Trump for his alleged incitement of an insurrection on Jan. 6. Since then, she has continued to rail against the former president and promote the highly questionable allegation that, as Congress voted to certify Joe Biden as the 46th commander in chief, Trump supporters attempted to forcibly prevent the transfer of power.
Clinging to the Old Ways
Even after her dismissal as head of the Republican Conference, the congresswoman doubled down on her refusal to accept the new direction upon which the party embarked in 2016. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney said to reporters after the vote.
Cheney’s father, who served as vice president to George W. Bush, was quite possibly the most despised VP in modern history in the eyes of the left. His daughter has very much followed in his ideological footsteps, yet her constant criticisms of Donald Trump have endeared her to the left-wing media. In recent weeks, they have portrayed her as something of a heroine, bravely standing against the anti-democracy forces of the Trump movement.
But have the likes of Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) been battling to prevent a party coup by a dangerous and destructive Trump cult, or are they merely fighting to preserve their own interests, disregarding the will of the voters who put Trump in the Oval Office a little over four years ago?
Trump’s GOP Wants to Move On
The timing and brevity of the vote to remove Cheney might be considered indicative of how eager the Republican Party’s House leaders were to rid themselves of a troublesome distraction. Had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) decided to schedule this meeting for the end of the day, after the conclusion of congressional business, it may have turned into an extended affair with recriminations and long speeches. That Cheney’s fate was decided first thing in the morning suggests a desire on the part of McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and other Trump loyalists to quickly dispatch Cheney with as little fuss as possible.
Maybe a message was being sent to the GOP’s anti-Trump faction: We are in charge. We don’t have time for, nor will we tolerate your continued demonizing of the man who led the Republican Party to usher in a new golden age of conservative populism and America First policymaking. The other option was to return the GOP to its status as little more than a reactionary alternative to the Democratic Party that would cede ground on an issue if it appeared politically expedient to do so.
In response to the vote to remove Cheney, the 45th president was characteristically unfiltered. In a statement released immediately following the vote, Trump described the congresswoman as a “bitter horrible human being.” He also called her a “warmonger” and went on to quip: “I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!”
Cheney remains in the House, of course, but likely faces a number of primary challengers in 2022. Whether she survives that contest and keeps her seat will set the tone for Republicans going into 2024.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.